Sunday, 1 January 2017

My reading year - 2016

2016 has come and gone. Before I commence my planning for the coming year, I will reflect on the year that has gone by. In 2016 I set myself a goal of reading 24 books - two a month - and blogging in equal measure. I managed to write 47 blog posts this year, but fell short of the 24 books, completing only 22 by 31 December 2016.

At the start of the year I wrote a post about what I had planned to read in 2016, in which I announced my goal of the year and some of the books I wanted to read.

At the outset I wanted to finish some of the books that I had already started but never finished. I managed to complete several of them, including:

But somehow I never finished other books I am midway through - Not My Father's Son (Alan Cumming), Executioner's Song (Norman Mailer) and My Brilliant Friend (Elena Ferante) - all of which I enjoy while reading but never seem to hold my attention long enough to finish.

I also read a lot of things that are not books, and late in 2016 I decided to add "Random Reads" posts to my blog to account for some of the articles I was reading.

My reads in 2016 can be roughly clustered as follows:


I read some great Australian fiction in 2016, including my favourite read the year - Charlotte Wood's The Natural Way of Things (2015) which has lingered long after I finished the book. Winner of the Stella Prize and countless other accolades, Wood has a remarkable voice and I look forward to reading whatever she publishes next.

I also greatly enjoyed Emily Maguire's An Isolated Incident (2016), and Anna Funder's brief novella The Girl with the Dogs (2015).

A new author I found and admired is Graeme Macrae Burnet with His Bloody Project (2015), a Booker prize shortlisted novel which has taken the publishing world by storm. It was a terrific novel and I am thrilled to have found this new author.

Other fiction included Tegan Bennet Daylight's short story collection Six Bedrooms (2015), Fleur Ferris' Risk (2015), JK Rowling's Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (2016) and her alter-ego Robert Galbraith's Career of Evil (2015).

For a second year running, I read a lot of biographies this year which told the life stories of remarkable women. I really enjoyed reading Gloria Steinem's recollection of her years travelling in My Life on the Road (2016). Meeting her at the Sydney Writers' Festival in May 2016 was one of the highlights of my year. She has long been a hero of mine and to hear her speak in person and have her sign a copy of her book, was a real treat.

I also enjoyed Jeannette Winterson's bio Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? (2012) which I read after hearing her speak at the Sydney Writers' Festival this year. Clementine Ford's memoir Fight Like a Girl (2016) was another interesting read.

While not strictly a biography, Helen Garner's Everywhere I Look (2016) is a wonderful collection of essays which gives great insight into Garner's thinking on a range of topics. It was a delightful read, so crisply written.

Two tales of loss bookended my reading this year: Helen Macdonald's H is for Hawk (2015) and Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking (2005) both explored grief and the aftermath of losing a loved one. Didion's book had long been on my list to be read and I am so pleased to have read it.

I read a lot of other non-fiction in 2016 including Nikki Savva's expose on Tony Abbott in The Road to Ruin (2016).  This juicy account of the downfall of the Abbott government was a real page-turner.

I also really enjoy the Quarterly Essay which arrives every three months in my mailbox. In 2016 I read:

Bits and Pieces

In 2016 I also read some poetry, completing Kate Tempest's Brand New Ancients, starting (although not finishing) Clive James' latest collection, re-reading the inimitable Dorothy Parker. I enjoy poetry and have quite a lot of it, but I don't always make the time to enjoy it.

I blogged about many of the events I attended, like the Sydney Writers' Festival, the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, and All About Women. I also wrote about plays like All My Sons, Speed The Plow and The Literati and about various literary awards that crop up throughout the year.

Favourites of 2016
If I had to chose, I would select as my favourites of 2016, Charlotte Wood, Gloria Steinem and Helen Garner would be my choices. But I would give an honourable mention to Emily Maguire and Graeme Macrae Burnet. 

All in all it was a good year of reading. I tackled some new authors (Wood, Maguire, Burnett, Paine, Savva), and enjoyed some old favourites (Rowling, Steinem, Winterson, Garner). I also managed to complete some books that were lingering on my "To Be Read" pile (Macdonald, Galbraith, Didion). Looking forward to new adventures in reading in 2017!